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Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Revelation 1:9. If you’re visiting with us this morning, we’re glad you’re here. We’re in an exposition of Revelation 1-3, and we’re going to take a look at our Lord’s letters to the churches in Asia Minor. We’ve entitled the series, You’ve Got Meal.
But before we get there, there’s a vision given to John that sets the whole context for the letters themselves. In fact, parts of this description of Christ that we’re about to read will be on list throughout the letters themselves. And it’s so important that you and I get a vision of the Christ who stands amidst the candlesticks, the one who both protects and purifies His church in this age.
Revelation 1:9, “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard from behind me a loud voice as of a trumpet saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. And what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and Laodicea.’ Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me and having turned I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands, one like the Son of Man clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”
“His head and hair were like wool, as white as snow and his eyes like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass as if refined in a furnace, and his voice is the sound of many waters. He had in his right hand seven stars. Out of his mouth went the sharp two-edge sword, and his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. He laid his hand on me saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am he who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of hades and death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars, which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.'”
We trust God will use His Word in each of our lives this morning. I don’t know about you, but I often squirm and cringe when I see a picture of Jesus on the cover of a magazine like Time or Newsweek. And the reason I get nervous is because I know that after they have analyzed, dissected and looked at Christ, they strip Him of His deity and they rob Him of His glory. By the time the writers and editors are done, a new script of Christ’s life and legacy emerges, one in which He is a remarkable man but still a man, one in which He’s an object of fascination and historical curiosity, but certainly not a figure to be adored or worshiped. One in which He tells and teaches truth but is not the sole source of truth, which was His own claim in John 14:6 when He said, “I am the truth.”
In the end, a new narrative of Jesus is presented and it’s detached from the biblical record. We’re left with a Christ who does not qualify to be our savior and certainly does not warrant our worship. Our society, through these magazine articles and TV documentaries are left with a cut and paste version of Jesus Christ.
One writer has said this, “Americans apparently want Christ but they don’t want Him straight.” And that’s not a new phenomena, that’s not a modern trend. In fact, that’s why Thomas Jefferson, one of the Finding Fathers of the United States took a pair of scissors one day and hacked at his King James Bible. By the time he was finished, there was no virgin birth, there was no miracles. Christ had been stripped of His deity. There was no resurrection. He cut and paste the version of the Lord Jesus and presented it in a new Bible, in a New Testament called The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, in a letter to a friend in 1819, William Short, Jefferson says this, “That the cut and paste job was the work of two or three nights only at Washington D.C. after getting through his evening task of reading the letters and papers of the day.”
In fact, here’s what Jefferson boasted, that he had taken the diamonds from the dung hill and he had set before us the true Christ, not the Christ lost in the myth and legend of the New Testament documents. No human Christ, a great teacher, a wonderful example, a moral philosopher.
Oh, my friend in the light of that, how urgently do we need to turn back to Revelation 1 this morning and study John’s encounter with the Christ of Revelation, a Christ who triggers worship, who warrants fear, who commands obedience. You see, it’s the world’s MO to turn the creator into a creature, to remake God in their image, but it is the church’s calling. It is the church’s mission to preach, and praise, and present an exalted Christ to a mistaken world. A Christ to His God and man, a Christ who is the only mediator between God and man, a Christ who died but conquered death, a Christ who during His life suspended and manipulated the laws of nature in the doing of miracles. A Christ who warrants our worship, a Christ who demands repentance from every living thing. A Christ who Paul describes as our great God and Savior.
By the way, little foot note. That’s why you cannot market Christ. There’s a lot of churches trying to market the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s a lot of books being written and palmed off as Christian literature that’s encouraging the church to take a sample of society, to find out what your neighbors want. But it’s so foolish. It’s so futile because man left to himself cuts and pastes his own version of Jesus Christ. And if you’re going to market Christ and the world’s in the market for Christ, you’re going to find they want a Christ, but they don’t want Him straight. Not straight from the pages of Scripture, not someone that warrants worship, demands obedience, calls for repentance.
Now Christ cannot be marketed, but He can be declared. He can be presented. Men must adjust to Him. No more of this cut and paste Christ.
So let’s get back to the Book of the Revelation. The scene here in Revelation 1:9, where John on the Lord’s day at a particular time during his imprisonment on Patmos encounters the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ comes walking into John’s worship experience. Jesus speaks, and it’s the sign of a trumpet. John swings round, he swivels. And there he’s confronted with the risen Christ in all His glory. And the brilliance is like the noonday sun. John falls down like a dead man. This is not the gentle swooning that you see that some televangelist meeting where people fall into the arms of ushers and their gently led down. There’s no barking, there’s no laughing in this scene as we find in the Toronto revival. No, this is a man, silent and prostrate before the risen Christ, trembling and in fear of the one before whom he lies.
Oh, God is good. But like Ozlem in Narnia, he’s not safe. He’s good, but he’s not safe. And we just started to challenge ourselves because today’s worship is mark by familiarity. John’s was marked by fear. Today’s worship is geared for having a good time. John’s experience of Christ scared him half to death.
So let’s go to the text. We started to look at John being overcome by majesty. There’s three things we’re going to see this morning. John is overcome by majesty, and then John is overwhelmed by mercy, and then John is overtaken by ministry. If you’ve got a nightline in your bulletin, I would invite you to follow it and take some notes. But as John turns and faces the Christ of the Book of the Revelation, he’s like a man walking out of a dark room into the outdoors and into the brightness of the sun. John is overwhelmed by the brilliance of Christ’s person and presence, stunned, traumatized. And when we ask ourselves why? Why this reaction on John’s part? Why does he fall down as a dead man? Why is that appropriate?
Two reasons. Jesus deity and John’s depravity. Jesus deity and John’s depravity. We started to work our way through that first thought. John is overtaken and overshadowed by majesty. This is Christ unedited. This is Christ beyond the Gospels. His incarnation is over. His humiliation is ended, the glory which He had has been restored. John got a glimpse of that on the Mount of Transfiguration. But now this is full-blown, full bore and it’s overwhelming. John encounters Christ and he begins to describe Him for us. It’s his best attempt because we saw he uses this word like a lot. This is not an exact description because what he saw almost defies description. He couldn’t put it in words. In fact, if we were talking to John about this, I think he would be stumbling through his speech…
It was overwhelming and he begins to describe Christ. We have this impressionist portrait of the Lord Jesus. We saw a number of things. We saw that Christ was described like the Son of Man which speaks of the prophecy back in Daniel 7, of the coming Messiah who would reign and establish a kingdom that would be indestructible.
We saw that His garment was to His feet. He had a sash across His chest which seemed to indicate that this Son of Man was a high priest before God for mankind. We saw that entrance into the God’s presence, publicly speaking is always mediated. You have to come through another because we’re not worthy in ourselves, and Jesus is our priest and Jesus is the one mediator. We saw His hair was white as snow, speaking of His agelessness, speaking of His eternal nature. We saw and finally last Sunday morning that He had eyes like flame of fire which spoke of His omissions and the fact that you and I can’t escape His holy intelligence.
You can’t trick Christ with some kind of spiritual shell game where you’re one thing on a Sunday and another thing on a Monday. He sees behind closed doors. He watches what we do late at night when no one’s looking. After all, that is what integrity is, isn’t it? It’s what you are when no one’s looking. But we’re moving on now.
We’ve got a fifth description, verse 15 of chapter one of the Book of the Revelation. Come with me to it. “His feet were like fine brass as if refined in a furnace.” John is turning our thoughts towards Christ as the judge of sin. If you study the Book of Revelation, you’ll find throughout the Bible, a reference to feet is often a reference to subjugation. In fact in Revelation 14:19- 20, we have a preview of the battle of Armageddon when Christ returns and crushes the nations who are in rebellion to Him. It says, “He will trample upon them like a man in a wine press.” In fact in Revelation 19, we have this picture of Christ’s own vestments being splattered by the blood of his enemies.
People have this idea that God got kinder and gentler as time went on. And so this kind of violent deity in the book of the Old Testament, has learned His lesson and changed His ways, and He’s this kind of forgiving grandfather. Read the Book of the Revelation. God is holy and just, and sin will be punished. And Christ someday will come and put His enemies under His feet, feet as like brass. You’ll find in the Old Testament that brass is often associated with judgment. We won’t turn over to it. But if you’re taking notes, Exodus 38:30, The brazen altar at the tabernacle in the temple where the offerings for sin were burned was made of what? Brass. The serpent held up in the wilderness that they had the look to was made of brass, which is a picture of Jesus who would be lifted up and draw all men onto Himself.
Brass and brass feet, I think here speak of the fact that Jesus is going to judge and subdue sin. He’ll do that inside the church and He’ll do that outside the church. We’ve already made reference to the fact that at the battle of Armageddon He will make His enemies His footstool. He will tread them under His feet like a man in a wine press. But judgment begins in the house of God according to 1 Peter 4:17-18. You’re going to see that. Go to the first letter, Revelation 2:4. What did we read? “Nevertheless, I have this against you.” Jesus is taking issue with His own people. Jesus is taking issue with churches. We often and too often emphasize, “If God is for us who can be against us?” What happens when God’s against you? Nobody can be for you in that sense, and here we have Christ in His church.
We read about it again in chapter 14, or chapter two verses 14 through 15 as Jesus speaks through the church at Pergamos. “But I have a few things against you.” Jesus is amidst the candlesticks, amidst the church and His focus is on judging sin among His people, disciplining His churches, calling His churches to renewed obedience, and better service, and pure motives. Think about this. Have you ever thought about this? Read the Gospels and show me where Christ closed the doors of a brothel, or Christ barged into a gambling den and sent them all packing. You’ll find it nowhere. But you’ll find them twice in the Gospels going into the temple and purifying the house of God.
Because the time of judgment against the unbeliever is future. The time of judgment and discernment among His people is nigh. Christ cannot tolerate sin, especially in the church. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 5:3, of certain sins he says this, “Let them not be named among you.” Not once, because you’re a holy people. And you know what bothers me today? And as I talk to pastors and listen to what’s going on across the church in general, I can’t think of a sin that’s find in the world that’s not being find in the church today. God forgive us. We are meant to be different. Christ is among us and His feet is like brass.
Someone may ask me, “Pastor, is there a difference between a Christian sin and a non-Christian sin?” I say, “Yes, there is a difference. The Christian sin is worse.” You say, “Pastor, how do you come up with that?” Because when we sin, we abuse God’s grace. Does God’s grace abound that sin may more abound? No. We not only abuse God’s grace, we sin against the indwelling Spirit given to us to overcome the old man, and to break free from the gravitational pull of our flesh. We shame the name of Christ. Because the enemies of Christ laugh at us. Why should they get saved? It doesn’t produce anything different in us. Oh, it’s worse when we sin. And that’s why we’ve got to be careful with this whole idea to excuse ourselves. Sometimes we say to others, “You know what? Christians aren’t perfect. They’re just forgiven.” There’s a truth to that. That’s true, but I wouldn’t want to overplay that hand.
Christians aren’t perfect but they are meant to be different. We are meant to be a holy people, distinct from the world in the way we handle our money, take care of our body, order our homes, raise our children, the way we act in the business world. Listen to these words by Steve Lawson. “Do you hate weeds more in your neighbor’s yard or in your own? Of course you hate them especially in your own yard. Do you hate cancer more in your neighbor’s family or in your own family? You hate to see it in any family but especially in your own. In the same way Christ especially hates sin in His own spiritual family more so than in the world.”
Let’s move on. We’ve got a sixth description. What did we read here? Verse 15 again, “And his voice as the sound of many waters.” Not to spend a lot of time here, but there’s a thought you and I want to get. John is revealing the absolute authority of Christ, that His voice ought to drown out any other voice. He gets the mic all the time. We see this because there’s this idea that His voice is like many waters. Have you ever been to a place where there’s many waters? Maybe some of you have. June and I just last year got to take the ride on the Maid of the Mist to the fairy foot of the Niagara Falls. The sound of the millions of gallons of water that pours over those falls every single moment of every single hour, of every single day was deafening. That’s the image, the roar of the Niagara Falls or the Victoria falls in Africa
And that must have had a special meaning to John. Here he is in exile on the island of Patmos and there wouldn’t have been a day when he wouldn’t have heard the waters crashing against the caves and the coastline of the little island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. The sound of the waters, roaring. And he was being reminded that when Christ speaks he must listen. Here we have these letters going out to the churches and the images that church has got to listen. Christ is speaking and He’s got the voice of many waters.
Skip over verse 16. We’re going to come back to that or at least skip over the first part of verse 16. “He had in his right-hand seven stars.” We’ll pick that up in our next study. But I want you to see here a neat description. “He had in his right-hand seven stars.” Verse 16, “And out of his mouth went the sharp two-edged sword.” That’s a present participle, means out of His mouth, constantly, all the time went the two-edge sword. What’s the image? I think the images of Christ’s pronouncement of judgment upon His churches’ enemies inside and outside.
In fact in chapter two in verse 12, this description is picked up. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos, write these things. ‘Says he who has the sharp two-edge sword and that sword is directed towards those who are troubling that church with false doctrine.'” Thus verse 15, “You also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against you with the sword of my mouth.'” This image is picked up in Revelation 19:15, we’ve got the image of Christ returning from heaven. “Now I saw heaven open.” Verse 11, “Behold a white horse and he who sat on him was called faithful and true, and in his righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except him. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood and his name was called The Word of God.” Verse 15. “Now out of his mouth goes a sharp sword that with which he will strike the nations”
My friend, you don’t want the cut and paste Jesus Christ at all, or you’ll miss this image of one who is God, who is among His people judging sin but who will someday strike the very nations with the word of His mouth, those who have rejected His Word, the Word that sounds like many waters. And so this is a description of Christ pronouncement of judgment upon those hurting His people and upon those who indeed continue to fight His Gospel. The sword is a weapon of offense and points to decisive action against those who oppose His will. I want you to notice something. It’s two-edged. It’s not only sharp, it smites the nations. It’s two-edged.
In what way might we say it’s two-edged? Well, it’s interesting when Paul speaks of sharing the Gospel, which will always includes the presentation of the Word. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, we read that to some it’s a fragrance of death and to others it’s a fragrance of life. And sadly that’s the ministry of God’s Word. Some people, it brings to life and other people it brings judgment too. The same sun that melts the snow caps hardens the clay. The same Gospel that brings life to some, brings death and judgment to others who continue to reject that Word of mercy.
Mindfully and finally here we have this picture of Christ shining as the noon day sun. Verse 16, “And his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” See, remember when Christ was on earth His glory was veiled. Before He took on flesh, He was Spirit, He was God and He shone like the sun and angels covered their faces without being able to look at Him. He came among man and He had His glory. It shone through once in a while, especially on the Mount of Transfiguration. It’s almost like Christ is this bright light and in His incarnation, there’s like a lampshade that goes over His glory and that’s why men made a mistake. That’s why Paul says, “Had they known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
But He didn’t look like the Lord of glory. He looked like the carpenter’s son. He looked like Mary’s boy, but now His humiliation and His incarnation is over. He has carried our humanity to the throne and now the glory has been restored. John can hardly look at Him when once he lay on His breast, the Last Supper.
In fact, Christ is so much this that according to Revelation 22:5, “There shall no longer be any night in heaven. They shall not have need of the light or of the lamp nor the light of the sun because the Lord God shall illuminate them.” There’ll be no sun in heaven, no light in heaven from the sun. Christ is the light. His glory, His self brilliance is so brilliant, and so mesmerizing that He will light heaven itself. We’ve all seen pictures, haven’t we, of atomic tests and man standing miles and miles away with dark goggles on, viewing the blast of deadly brilliance. Oh, that we would appreciate the radiance of the risen Christ.
Before we move to the next [inaudible]. A couple of questions. Is this the Christ you see when you close your eyes? Is this the Christ you come to worship on a Sunday morning? Is this the Christ who regulates your behavior during the week, high and lifted up, commanding and demanding? Do you know what? We need a new revelation of the Christ of Revelation. This is not the Christ of consumer Christianity. This is not the Christ of non lordship salvation. This is not the Christ of the seeker sensitive movement, but it is the Christ who walks amidst the candlesticks. We live in a day that majors on relevance and minors on reverence. And yet you and I need to come before this vision of Christ more than we have and get a sense of God’s greatness in Christ’s glory.
Because if you listen to the average evangelical sermon and participate in the average evangelical worship service, you would think that God is a campfire rather than a consuming fire. He doesn’t dwell in unapproachable light, but He’s there to be our nightlight. This last century has been a disaster. We’ve seen the domestication of God. We can’t manage God. I can’t. He doesn’t scare us anymore, He doesn’t threaten us. Isaiah 8:13, you know what it says? “Let the Lord be your dread.” The dread of God, the fear of God which is clean and wholesome has left the church. No longer is a sense of God’s majesty, no longer do we fall prostrate on our faces like John or Peter who said, “Lord, depart from me. I’m a sinful man.” Or Isaiah.
John MacArthur used to tell us a story at the Master’s Seminary of a friend of his who boasted of his intimacy with Jesus, that Jesus and him were good buds. Sometimes in fact, Jesus would come in while he was shaving in his bathroom. MacArthur said, “Literally?” The guy said, “Yeah, literally. He comes in His body.” “What does He do?” The friend said, “He just puts His arm on my shoulder when I’m shaving.” And John said, “What do you do?” And the guy said, “I still go on shaving.” To which John replied, “That’s not Jesus.” How true. It’s not the Jesus of the Book of the Revelation.
We not only have Jesus deity, we have John’s depravity. Why is John prostrate? Because of who Christ is and in the light of who Christ is, John comes to see who He is and there’s no comparison. He’s like an insect scrambling for cover when the rock is turned and the sun comes shining into the darkness. John feels his depravity, his smallness, his sinfulness before Christ. Listen to me folks. For John in that day, Jesus was too much. There’s a thought. Isn’t it? Jesus, too much. Isn’t that the Jesus I know. I can cozy up to Him and chat with Him. I can worship Him any way I want. John goes, “That’s not the Christ I know. It’s not the Christ I saw on Patmos. When I saw his loftiness, I understood my loneliness.”
The average evangelical saunters through a service like a Mohawk along a strand of scaffolding, who has long forgotten their danger. I’ve always been fascinated by those pictures. In fact, one of my girls I think, or maybe it was my sister bought me one of those where you see the Mohawks sitting on a scaffold. Maybe I don’t know what it is 5,000 feet off the ground working on one of those skyscrapers in New York. You’ve seen pictures of them, haven’t you? Walking along those things like they’re just walking the sidewalk. And you go, “Have these guys forgot the danger they’re in?” And yet that is how sometimes we worship. We’ve forgotten the danger we’re in. The Bible says, “No man can see God and live.” In fact, you and I cannot worship God apart from the righteousness of Christ, and the forgiveness that comes through His grace.
F. B. Meyer was visiting a Scottish home. It was wash day and the clothes were on the line and began to snow. And so the clothes didn’t look as bright white as they had before. When Meyer shared that thought with the landlady, she said, “Man, what can stand against God Almighty’s whites?” You know what folks? Nothing can stand against God Almighty’s white. The white heat of His holiness, the glory of His radiance, which brings us thankfully to the second thought.
John was overwhelmed by majesty. He’s not overwhelmed by mercy. Talk about a twist. Here he is prostrate with his face to the dirt, not even daring to look up, acting like he’s stone-cold dead. And in a wonderful twist, the voice of many waters whispers, “Don’t be afraid.” Verse 17, “Don’t be afraid.” John the aging apostle lies limp at the feet of Jesus, and that nail pierced right hand of Christ reaches down to restore him and put together his disintegrated soul. Although Christ’s appearance had changed since John last saw Him, thank God His heart had not changed. The Great I am was the gracious I am. And then a sweet surprising gesture of quieting and quickening grace, the hand that had touched the face of a leper, the hand that had parted the head of children while He was on earth, touched John and told him not to be afraid.
That’s beautiful because the point not to be missed here is that Jesus appeared unto John, not to scare the dickens out of him, but to embolden him and assure him through the unveiling of His divine power and majesty that all was well. The little flock of Christ being divided by the wolves of the world was still under the care of the chief and the great shepherd. And if God be for us, who can be against us. And the whole point of this vision as glorious and threatening as it was, was that this one who stood among them also stood for them and against those who opposed them. Remember that we saw that’s one of the purposes of the vision, that Christ who reigns in heaven will someday reign on earth, and the church need to be faithful.
Some of them were losing their lives. Look at chapter two in verse 10, the church at Smyrna. What do we read? “Do not fear.” This is a theme to be picked up. “John, don’t be afraid. All this sovereignty, all this power, all this glory is to the benefit of my people. Do not fear any of those which you’re about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days, but be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Some of them had already lost their lives according to chapter two and verse 13, we’re told about a faithful martyr by the name of Antipas. What does Jesus say? “And you hold fast to my name and do not deny your faith even in the days of Antipas, who was my faithful martyr and who was killed among you.”
Death stalked the early church. They were frightened, they were small, they were overwhelmed, but Jesus wants them to be overwhelmed, not by man but by God. And this glorious vision we have of Him in Revelation 1, He doesn’t want them to be fearful of death because Jesus goes on to tell John here in verse 17, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am he who lives and was dead and behold, I’m a alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of hades and of death.” What a beautiful description of the Lord Jesus. He’s the first and the last. He’s the creator of all things and He’s the one who will bring all of history to a screeching halt at His second coming, and they needed to get their eyes on Him.
There’s none before Christ. There’s not beyond Christ. There’s nothing without Christ. Other than Christ, will not do. Less than Jesus, will not work. More than Jesus, is not possible. He’s the first and the last. He’s the one who lives but who was dead, but to now alive forever more. He’s the living one. He’s not like pagan gods and dead emperors. His life is immortal and extinguishable, unchanging. He’s not just alive, He’s the living one. He’s the source of life, physical and spiritual, temporary and eternal. What does John say in 1 John 5:11? “He who has the son has life. He who has not the son does not have life.” He’s the first and the last. He’s the living one and He holds the keys to death and hades.
Those terms are almost synonymous. But if there is a distinction, death is the experience. Hades is the place, it’s the place of the departed, the dead. And what do we read? Jesus has the keys of death and hell. You go back into that era, into that culture, people who had power and status in the culture often wore chains with big keys on them. Jesus takes that, “Hey, let me you. I’ve got the keys.” He wasn’t wearing keys. Literally He was just saying, “Hey, I earned through death. I was dead but I’m alive forevermore, and I decide who dies and when, and I decide who gets out of a spirit of death.” He brings that message to His shivering sheep, threatened by a wolf like violent world.
Here’s the takeaway to the church. Christ is victorious. He’s got all ability and all authority, and He’s leading the charge. What do we read in 2 Corinthians 2:14, that Christ always leads us in triumph. That’s the message that comes to these churches. What they’re about to see how Christ leads the charge to the end of history and brings all the kingdoms under His rule, that helps stiffen them and steal them for suffering. It helps them continue to serve. It gives value to their losses. They need not fear either death or demotion. Heaven was home. Jesus was king, death was gain. They were on the winning side.
Just this week I was reading a story of a very well-known Spanish hero by the name of El Cid. The famous Battle of Valencia took place, a beautiful city right on the Mediterranean coast. The Moorish kings had besieged the city of Valencia. El Cid was sick, but he was propped up in his bed. And during the night, he gave his commanders the map to success. In the morning before the Moorish kings and their soldiers were awake, El Cid was propped up on his horse with his sword held high. And as the sun came over the hills, they rode out the gates and smashed the elite troops of the Moorish kings and set their armies to scatter.
After was all said and done, it was only then that was realized that El Cid had died during the night. But he had left a word to his commanders to prop his dead body up and brace it upon the saddle of his horse and have him holding his sword high, and his soldiers inspired by the sight of a dead leader, get in behind them and run out the gates and broke the siege of the city of Valencia.
Oh, my friend, we don’t have a dead savior. The one who leads us always in triumph is like the Son of Man, whose hair is like white wool. He’s wearing a sash and a robe, and out of His mouth comes His mighty word. His voice sounds like the mighty waters.
Which brings us to this last thought. John overtaken by ministry. The next thing that happens is that John is told to rise and write. Look at verse 19. “Write the things which you have seen. Write the things which you have seen, I want the church to get this vision.” He was to carry this glorious and victorious message to the seven churches of Asia. And then what do we read at the end of every letter? “And let him who hath an ear, hear what the spirit is saying to the churches,” plural. This message was to echo out of Asia to the church worldwide and even into our day.
The word comes to us here at Kenwood Community Church and Memorial Day weekend. The new week begins, we’ve got challenges. The church in this culture is under pressure. Truth seems to be on the scaffold, and injustice on the throne. But you know what? [inaudible] said, “The living one, who has the keys of death and hell leads the charge. And He wants us this week, not just to write His Word, but speak His Word, share His Word. We ought to do it, disciplining our kids and our family devotions. We ought to do it by helping in women’s ministry, men’s ministry, children’s ministry, prison ministry. You need to think this week intentionally about sharing this Word of the risen Christ, the reigning Christ, the coming king to your family, your friends, your neighbors who are perishing. We’ve got to get the vision out, of the one whose voice is like many waters, who’s got all ability and all authority.”
Here’s the final thought, men of God. John is ordered by Jesus to write a book. What a calling, what a commission. He’s 90 years old, but there’s still some life in the old horse. He’s going to serve Jesus some more. In fact, this is probably one of the greatest tasks that John has ever been given, age 90. Wow. Ladies. Oh wow, ladies. What a challenge to us all.
And the scene moves from worship to work. That’s my last point, my last thought. The scene moves from worship to work. It always was does. When you are truly overcome by Christ’s majesty, when you are truly overtaken by Christ’s mercy, you will be overwhelmed with the desire to do Christ’s ministry. Worship must never become an end in itself. Why do we come here? Because we’re commanded to. We spend enough time in the company of those who don’t love our Lord Jesus and use His word as profanity. We’ve watched enough TV and read enough magazine articles. We’re tired of the cut and paste Jesus that’s out there. They wouldn’t know Jesus if they bumped into Him.
We come together because we have a proper understanding of who He is. We love Him. We love who He is. We love what He’s done for us. His cross is our treasure. His forgiveness is our possession. We come together to worship Him. Now we leave, what to do? To serve. Overwhelmed by His majesty and His mercy we now are overtaken by ministry. Worship always turns to work. That’s the mistake that John actually, and Peter, and James made back in Matthew 17. They’re up on the mountain, the inner circle, the disciples. Jesus glory begins to shine through. There’s this transfiguration. They see something of what John would later see 60 years later, full bore, full-blown. And what does Peter say now? You can’t stop Peter putting foot in his mouth.
He says, “Let’s build some booths here and worship. Let’s stay up here. I like this. I don’t want to go back down there.” What’s happening down in the valley? Read Matthew 17 later on. The disciples are down there struggling with demonic activity. A woman has come whose child is demon possessed. They can’t exorcize the demon because they’re weak. They’re up in the mountain top. Jesus says, “No, we’re not staying here. This vision should capture you. Let’s go down into the valley and share it, and bring my power to bear upon people’s lives.” And that’s exactly what happens.
Worship strengthens us so that God might send us, in dependence upon Him to impact a world without Christ. Worship must never become a cul-de-sac. I know Christians who love worship. They love the worship experience. In fact, they’ll leave churches over, “We don’t have the right worship experience.” But worship must lead to work. It will produce godliness. It will change our characters as we change the culture.
Maybe you watched it in 1971, the Apollo 15 mission. It went down in the annals of space exploration, David Scott, James Irwin. It was a three-day deal. They landed on the surface of the moon with their spacecraft, Falcon. They proceeded to set some unimaginable records. They covered 17.4 miles of the moon’s surface. They spent almost 18 hours of 66 hours on the very surface of the moon and outside their lunar module. This was a groundbreaking deal for NASA. These guys were sure of virtual deification when they got home. Now listen to these words. But after piloting his spacecraft a quarter of a million miles back to planet earth, James Irwin said this, “As I was returning to the earth, I realized that I was a servant, not a celebrity. So I am here as God’s servant on planet earth to share what I’ve experienced that others might know the glory of God.”
See, when you get overwhelmed by God’s glory, it’s not about who’s a celebrity, who’s first. The last shall be first. It’s about being servants to the one who made it all, made us for His own glory. And we see that in the life of John. “John, don’t fear. Write what you’ve seen and talk of what you’ve heard.”
In his book Sam Storm says this on the seven churches, and I recommended that book. Here’s what he said. “The greatness of a church is not measured by its membership role, by its budgetary prowess, but by the size of its savior, faithfully honored, passionately praised and confidently trusted.” He went on to say, “The big church, what’s a big church? Is it a church of 2,000 people with a $5 million budget?” Here’s what he says, “The big church is any church that boasts in a big God.”
We can be a big church here at Kenwood even if we don’t grow one more member, so long as we boast of a big God. But I think when you boast of a big God, you grow because people are attracted to the afterglow of lives changed in the presence of someone so magnificent and so merciful. Let’s pray as John and Lisa come up.
Oh God, we come this morning. We thank you for this glorious vision given to John, that John might give it to your servants, us. Oh God, we mourn a mangled Christ in our culture, a patchwork quilt of little thoughts about Him. He’s a remarkable man, but He’s a mere man. He’s a subject of fascination, but He’s not the object of adoration. But oh God, we understand who He is. Glorious, risen, reigning, judging, coming, calling us to serve.
Oh, may we have no small thoughts of Him this morning. May we be a big church that proclaims and preaches a big God. The God, if there are those here this morning that don’t know you, may our worship be a magnet, may our lives and argument for them giving their hearts and their future to the one who owns the future, and who will determine their destiny.
And everybody said, amen. Let’s stand.